Mocking Marriage: The Valentine’s Divorce Contest and the TV Marriage Extravaganza

Walter H. Bentley III, a Southfield, Michigan divorce attorney, is again this year conducting his popular FREE VALENTINE’S DIVORCE CONTEST.

The winning couple will be given an all-expenses-paid divorce, with an estimated value of $3,000 to $5,000. The winners will be selected based on the most compelling and convincing story as to why they should be granted the divorce. The contest is limited to Michigan residents who seek an uncontested divorce, with no or minimum child custody issues.

Bentley, in a television interview this week on WDIV-TV, explained that economic times make it difficult for people to get the divorces they need. Sometimes, he said, the best thing people can do is just walk away and start fresh. And there are many folks out there who seem to agree with him: Last year, his ironic Valentine’s Day contest brought 600 applications from unhappy couples hoping to untie the knot.

Bentley’s website speaks to his “Who cares?” attitude toward divorce:

“Are you or your spouse contemplating divorce?” he asks. “Get the guidance you need to get your divorce done with dignity and pride! Clients enter my “No Judgment Zone” to get through this emotional process.”

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Why, I wondered as I watched this guy flaunt his easy-peasy break-up expertise on-air, has our contemporary culture taken such a cavalier attitude toward the dissolution of a marriage? Hollywood, I suppose, deserves part of the blame. And the cheap fan magazines in the supermarket checkout lanes tease with their “who’s-sleeping-with-whom” headlines.

But part of the blame must go, also, to our dismissive attitudes at the front end—how decidedly un-serious we are about getting into marriage in the first place.

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On February 10, the same day I watched attorney Walter Bentley grinning through an interview about his great divorce giveaway, I also happened upon a televised mass wedding in which fifty couples said “I do” in front of TV comedian Steve Harvey. Harvey is purportedly a Christian; but there was no mention of God in this made-for-TV wedding extravaganza. He had alongside him (to make it official) a “real” minister—a woman from (wait for it…) the Little Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

As America watched, fifty tuxedoed men repeated their vows to fifty white-gowned, bare-shouldered women:

“I [insert groom's name here] take you [insert bride's name here] to be my best friend for life, to do what I say I am going to do, to protect you, to provide for you, and to always make you feel loved and appreciated.”

Fifty brides did the same, but for the gals there was less emphasis on taking out the trash on Thursday evening, and greater emphasis on boosting the fragile male ego:

“I [insert bride's name here] take you [insert groom's name here] to be my best friend for life, I vow to make you feel wanted, to make you feel needed, to make you feel appreciated, and to always be clear and honest.”

And as fifty rings were placed on fifty fingers, Harvey spoke the words of his secular sacrament:

“I now pronounce you all man and wife. You may now kiss the brides.”

I can’t predict how many of those fifty starry-eyed couples will, five or seven years from now, seek the assistance of a guy like Walter Bentley in getting out of the marriage they began this week on the small screen. I do expect this: The divorce rate will be a lot higher for those who began their life together on a television stage show, than it will for those who spoke their vows before God and loved ones in a sacred space.

Marriage is hard. Even when the couple sets out with the best of intentions, the day-to-day challenges can threaten their peace and lead to divorce. But as the prophet says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, a three-fold cord is not easily broken. With God in the equation, the three-fold cord of husband, wife and God can sustain the pummeling that’s sure to come in the storms of life.

Invite God into your marriage.  Begin with Him, and turn to Him together, in good times and bad.  And never—never—never permit yourself to consider the “easy out” which divorce seems to offer.

 

‘Cause You Can’t Eat Flowers: Relationship Advice from Older Irish Couples

Just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Long-married Irish couples explain why they’re still in love after all these years.

Together Again: Widower Who Sat by Wife’s Grave for 20 Years Has Now Died

Julita Abalsamo had been married 55 years when she died in 1993 of complications following heart surgery.

And for twelve years following her death, her devoted husband Rocky sat beside her grave in Boston’s St. Joseph Cemetery every day.   Most days, he was there when it opened–and he stayed until the gates were closed at night.  He didn’t eat or drink during his vigil–mostly, he said, out of respect, but also to be certain he didn’t need the bathroom.  On special occasions, he would toast her with sparkling cider.  He was there in rain or shine, snow and sleet or summer’s heat.

In 2005, their only son was killed in an auto accident–and the loss seemed to change Rocky.  Although he still frequented the cemetery often, he began to hold back, to spend more time with the family he had left.  But he remained dedicated to his beloved wife.  Spending time at her gravesite, he explained, kept him connected and made him feel better.

On January 22, Rocky passed away at the age of 97 at the Stonehedge Health Care Center in West Roxbury; and he was buried in his favorite spot, beside his wife.

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The Daily Mail told the story:

Julita

Rocky and Julita’s love story is the stuff of fairy tales.  They met as teenagers in Buenos Aires, when the two were seated back to back in a cafe.  Rocky heard his future wife talking with friends “about the soul, about life, goodness,” he explained in a 2000 interview with The Boston Globe.  Even before he saw her face, he wanted to be with her.

“She was pure love,” Rocky said.  “Her beauty was a gift apart, a reward.”

The couple kissed for the first time on September 16, 1937, and they were married the following April.  Rocky celebrated that first kiss anniversary throughout their long marriage.

Rocky and Julita had two children; and they followed the children to the U.S. in 1971.  The following year, they settled in Boston, where they remained until death claimed Julita in 1993.

The Daily Mail has more about Rocky’s daily cemetery visits:

Each morning he would greet Julita – ‘I am here!’ – unfold his blue chair and unpack the belongings he would bring with him, such as photos and other tokens.

He rarely ate or drank, mostly out of respect but also so he does not need a bathroom, and would toast Julita with sparkling cider on special occasions, such as her birthday on December 20.

At night he would pray and sprinkle crumbs on the grave so that chipmunks would keep her company after he leaves.

Over time, what began as a personal act of mourning touched dozens of others who came to the cemetery.

People would bring meals, boots, hats, and scarves, and they decorated Julita’s grave with plants, ceramic angels, flags, and stuffed animals.

He told them stories and shared his wisdom about life and love.

Rocky had asked to be buried on his wife’s left side–just as they had always walked together, hand in hand.

Rocky’s daughter Angela said, “The most special thing about my father was that he lived his life his way.  He lived one day at a time and enjoyed that day without preoccupations for tomorrow.”